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Mechanical Engineering. 2013;135(09):S4-S12. doi:10.1115/1.2013-SEP-4.
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This article provides an overview of utility grid operation by introducing the fundamental behavior of the electrical system, explaining the importance of maintaining grid reliability through balancing generation and load, and describing the methods of providing ancillary services using conventional utilities. This article also introduces the basic structural components of wind turbines, explains the traditional control systems for capturing maximum power, and highlights control methods developed in industry and academia to provide active power ancillary services with wind energy. As the penetration of wind energy continues to grow, the participation of wind turbines and wind farms in grid frequency stability is becoming more important. The future of wind energy development and deployment depends on many factors, such as policy decisions, economic markets, and technology improvements. Improvements through research and development in areas such as forecasting, turbine manufacturing processes, blade aerodynamics, power electronics, and active power control systems will continue to be a key driver for wind energy technology.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2013;135(09):S13-S21. doi:10.1115/1.2013-SEP-5.
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This article summarizes the fundamental dynamics and control attributes and challenges faced by stationary and crosswind airborne wind energy (AWE) systems. AWE systems have undergone rapid and steady technological development over the past decade, with several organizations demonstrating basic economic and technical viability of their concepts. The theoretical and numerical analyses performed so far indicate that crosswind systems have the potential to achieve a power curve similar in shape to that of current commercial wind turbines, with rated power of 2–5 MW. The ongoing development activities are increasing the viability of the concept; yet, several technical issues remain and need to be addressed, to definitively show that this technology can be scaled up to industrial size. The expert analysis suggests that AWE technologies are at the dawn of their development, and there is significant untapped potential for the use of innovative solutions in multiple fields such as materials, power electronics, and aerodynamics, to tackle problems. These challenges present a wealth of opportunities for future, multidisciplinary research and development activities.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2013;135(09):34-39. doi:10.1115/1.2013-SEP-1.
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This article explores the change that robotic machines bring in human culture. A study shows that some children are learning to confide in robots because they are safer than people. Experts believe that technology is seducing humans with the illusion of companionship that could be turned on and off at will, without any mutuality. Robots’ faces and especially their eyes show emotion, and their voices reflect rhythms and tones of human skin, mimicking an interested listener. Researchers believe that sociable robots and artificial intelligence software are changing human expectations. Today’s robots are not only smarter, but also are increasingly able to engage humans emotionally. As a result, humans have begun to think about their relationships with robots in new and often startling ways. Many people view robots as safer than people. A big percentage of people believe that the need for caretaker robots for the elderly is self-evident. These robotic technologies are seductive, because they promise taht we will always be heard and never be alone.

Topics: Robots , Robotics , Machinery
Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2013;135(09):40-45. doi:10.1115/1.2013-SEP-2.
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This article discusses the use of fuel cell-powered vehicles that aim to change the face of transportation. These fuel cell-powered vehicles are expected to have a significant impact on reducing both the emissions implicated in global climate change and those that cause local smog. Fuel cells electrochemically oxidize a fuel without burning, thereby avoiding the inefficiencies and pollution associated with the traditional combustion technologies. The U.S. Department of Energy is working with researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and elsewhere to develop non-precious materials to replace the platinum catalysts in fuel cells. European scientists have developed a material for converting hydrogen and oxygen to water that uses only 10% of the amount of platinum that is normally required. The researchers discovered that the efficiency of the nanometer-sized catalyst particles is greatly influenced by their geometric shape and atomic structure. Mechanical engineers play a crucial role in the development of both fuel cell and hydrogen production technologies.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2013;135(09):46-49. doi:10.1115/1.2013-SEP-3.
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This article focuses on different software tools that give engineers a quick access to product information. Software tools help access data generated during the product development process. Known as a search-based application or as unified information access, these tools use elements of semantic technology—machine-based recognition of meanings and relationships in text—to find information stored throughout a company’s multiple sources of data, including computer-aided design files and product lifecycle management systems. These software tools perform three functions: search, discover, and analyze. Search applications reduce the risks of using incomplete information when making product development decisions. Another type of search technology to consider is geometric-based search that pinpoints relevant parts based on shape. A company’s software selection criteria must encompass the informational needs of all product development activities throughout the enterprise. These activities include design engineering, manufacturing process planning, and quality control.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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